Where the Young and Old Thrive

Have you met our youngest employee yet? This blue-eyed beauty can be found crawling around on all fours, greeting guests in the lobby with a grin, or sitting in the lap of a member- stealing love from one of her many “Grandmas and Grandpas.” Meet Savanha Rae, “Savi!”  I am blessed to call this sweet baby girl my daughter!

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Savi will be a year old on September 15th and has been working since she was six weeks old.  Not many tots can say they started working at such a young age! She has an important job here at Oakwood, her contagious energy, youthful spirit and laughter bring so many therapeutic benefits to our members. In many ways, Savi rekindles the precious personhood of members. The members of Oakwood are Mothers, Fathers, Grandmothers, and Grandfathers. Memories may be fading. Independence may be failing. But deep down inside, this personhood still exists and there is nothing more precious than seeing my daughter be a part of renewing someone’s personhood and spirit.

Once a mother always a mother. It brings tears to my eyes to see my sweet Savi rekindle the innate nurturing side of these women.  Alzheimer’s may take away someone’s ability to make decisions, their ability to dress, and even the ability to communicate. But time and time again, I see these women come to life and they know exactly how to care for a baby. When words are failing, they still remember sweet lullabies. Their bodies naturally rock and sway back and forth at just the right speed. It is as if the disease melts away.

They say “doll therapy” is an effective way to treat anxiety in someone with Alzheimer’s. This is demeaning, to say the least. It infuriates me that the senior care industry has made it acceptable to infantilize our seniors by giving them toy dolls to “play with" to ease anxiety and agitation.  Why can’t we give them the real thing? If there is one thing I have learned from bringing my daughter to work, it’s that these people deserve REAL and meaningful HUMAN connections. They deserve to play and interact with an infant that actually gives back.

Oh boy, does she have all the Grandpas of Oakwood wrapped around her little finger! There are no words to express how they dote on her. The smiles. The chatter. The laughing. They lean in, sing songs, and play. Savi loves to reach for those wrinkly noses. In return, “Grandpa Bud” or “Grandpa Rollie” steal her nose and quickly give it back.  

Aside from seeing these beautiful relationships unfold and seeing treatment beyond the pill at its finest, I am grateful for the opportunity to expose my daughter at such a young age to a special community of people who share a mutual love and teach her about compassion, human kindness, and bridging the aging gap.